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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Boston Red Sox

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After missing the playoffs in 2010, the Red Sox were on a mission to ensure they would be in the postseason in 2011. With Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford -- two of the offseason's highest-profile acquisitions -- leading the way, the Red Sox strolled into September with an 83-52 record and a 1.5-game lead in the American League East.

The Red Sox would win only seven more games the rest of the way, and they lost out on the wild card spot on the last day of the regular season. Instead of basking in postseason glory, the Red Sox have had to contend with an offseason of disappointment, a scandal revolving around the consumption of fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse, and a relative dearth of splashy roster moves.

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While the team has not reeled in any player of the magnitude of Gonzalez or Crawford, they have been busy in recent months nonetheless. Manager Terry Francona was let go, general manager Theo Epstein left for the Cubs, and Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington, respectively, replaced them. Then Cherington reworked the bullpen, bringing in Andrew Bailey as the team's new closer (replacing departed free agent Jonathan Papelbon) and Mark Melancon as his set-up man. Ryan Sweeney came over from Oakland along with Bailey and will take over as the starting right fielder.

The Red Sox could be finished with their offseason roster moves, but they are far from done with setting their opening day lineup. Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie shared the shortstop position last season, but both have been dealt away with no clear replacement. Nick Punto, signed as a free agent in December, and Mike Aviles are the top candidates to win the job. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are set as the team's top three starting pitchers, but the rest of the rotation is up for grabs. Former set-up reliever Daniel Bard, veteran swingman Alfredo Aceves, offseason pick-ups Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva, Vicente Padilla and Clayton Mortensen, and perennial starter-in-waiting Andrew Miller are all in the mix to fill out the rotation's final two spots. Finally, the Red Sox may need to replace Crawford for a few weeks, as he underwent wrist surgery in January. Cody Ross was signed shortly after Crawford's surgery, and he will likely earn some starts as a fill-in.

The Yankees and Rays arguably got stronger this offseason, so with the Red Sox making few impact moves and still having question marks heading into spring training, they may face an uphill battle trying to avoid a third straight year without a playoff appearance. Should Major League Baseball move ahead with its expanded playoff format, the Red Sox may have a chance. Then again, if Crawford can bounce back from a difficult first year in Boston, or if the team can manage to solidify the rotation in the absence of departed Tim Wakefield and injured John Lackey (Tommy John surgery), they may still manage to get into the postseason, even without the help of an additional spot.

Sleeper ... Ryan Sweeney, OF

The arrival of Sweeney as the Red Sox's new starting right fielder was met with reactions ranging from yawns to outrage, but few were excited about the development. As a producer of empty batting averages around .290 in Oakland, Sweeney had done little to establish himself over the past few seasons. However, the line-drive hitting outfielder was penalized by playing his home games in Oakland, but in Fenway Park, Sweeney gets a double-hitter's nirvana as his new home park. If Sweeney was capable of producing a 30-plus doubles season in Oakland, 35 or 40 doubles would not be out of the question in Boston. He still doesn't possess enough home run power to be valuable in Rotisserie leagues, but Sweeney could be a surprise contributor in Head-to-Head formats, where he would be worth a late-round flier or waiver wire pickup.

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Injury-risk sleeper ... Clay Buchholz, SP

Coming off a 2010 campaign in which he won 17 games and compiled a 2.33 ERA, Buchholz was overrated in many quarters heading into 2011. He benefited from an ultra-low home run per flyball rate (5.8 percent) in '10, and sure enough, he gave up long balls more frequently last year. After posting a more modest ERA and missing half of the season with a stress fracture in his back, Buchholz is likely underrated this spring. By all accounts, Buchholz is healthy again, and he could post an ERA in the mid-3.00s, just as he did a year ago. With mediocre strikeout and walk rates, it would be easy to underrate the veteran of five seasons, but he consistently gets outs by inducing grounders and avoiding hard liners. While many owners may pass him over in favor of pitchers who accomplished more last year, Buchholz is still capable of producing like a No. 4 Fantasy starter, and he should be drafted accordingly.

Bust ... Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Saltalamacchia had shown the potential to hit for some power in the minor leagues, but prior to last season, he hadn't really delivered on it in the majors. His pace of 16 home runs in 358 at-bats was far better than any ratio he had put up previously, and particularly with a high percentage of short-distance homers, it seems unlikely that he will equal it this year. Salty's 23 doubles were also out of character, though some of those can be attributed to playing home games at Fenway Park. Still, owners should expect a downturn in Saltalamacchia's power and run-production stats this year, which would render him as a low-end option in standard mixed leagues at best.

2012 Boston Red Sox Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jacoby Ellsbury CF 1 Jon Lester LH
2 Dustin Pedroia 2B 2 Josh Beckett RH
3 Adrian Gonzalez 1B 3 Clay Buchholz RH
4 Kevin Youkilis 3B 4 Alfredo Aceves RH
5 David Ortiz DH 5 Daniel Bard RH
6 Carl Crawford LF Alt Aaron Cook RH
7 Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Ryan Sweeney RF CL Andrew Bailey RH
9 Nick Punto SS SU Mark Melancon RH
Top bench options RP Bobby Jenks RH
R Mike Aviles IF RP Franklin Morales LH
R Cody Ross OF RP Matt Albers RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Will Middlebrooks 23 3B Triple-A Triple-A
Middlebrooks hit for power in the Eastern League, which is no mean feat. He will need to prove himself in Triple-A, but a promotion to Boston could happen late in 2012.
2 Ryan Lavarnway 24 C Majors Triple-A
Lavarnway is a flyball hitter like Saltalamacchia, but long-term, he should hit with more power and for a higher average. Could steal Salty's job this year.
3 Xander Bogaerts 19 SS Class A Class A
Bogaerts has impressive power for a shortstop, though he may not stay at the position as he progresses through the minors. Still several years away.
4 Anthony Ranaudo 22 SP Class A Double-A
Ranaudo is unlikely to appear in the majors this season, but he could contend for a rotation spot in 2013. He is a worthwhile target in long-term keeper leagues.
5 Matt Barnes 21 SP DNP Class A
The Red Sox chose Barnes with the 19th pick overall in the 2011 amateur draft. The UConn product could rise quickly through the system, though Fantasy owners are unlikely to see him in Boston this year.
Best of the rest: Alex Wilson, SP; Jose Iglesias, SS; Blake Swihart, C; Bryce Brentz, OF; Brandon Jacobs, OF; Garin Cecchini, 3B; Jackie Bradley, OF; Sean Coyle, 2B; Henry Owens, SP; Brandon Workman, SP; Stolmy Pimentel, SP; Christian Vazquez, C; Kolbrin Vitek, 3B; Junichi Tazawa, RP; Lars Anderson, 1B.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Dilson Herrera to play only second in majors
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:58 pm ET) Mets shortstop Dilson Herrera will only play second base in the majors, ESPN.com reports, despite playing 27 games in the minors at shortstop this season.

Herrera was recalled Thursday from Double-A Binghamton, where he was hitting .340/.406/.560 in 61 games. He is expected to help replace Daniel Murphy, who was placed on the DL Thursday. 


Derek Holland ready after final rehab start
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:45 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Derek Holland's rehab start at Triple-A Round Rock Thursday should be his last one, according to ESPN.com.

Holland, who is recovering from knee surgery which has cost him his entire season so far, had his last start scratched due to a back injury. However, he said he did not feel the back was an issue Thursday, and feels ready to pitch in the majors.

"I felt good," Holland said. "I think the big thing was to just test my back and make sure everything was OK with that from there. I felt good and continue to pound the zone and just getting myself ready, that's the main thing. Just to get back to make sure I'm ready to go." 

The team currently does not have a plan for getting Holland into the rotation in the majors, but the report indicates it could happen at some time in the next week. 


Joey Gallo sets franchise minor-league strikeout record
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:40 pm ET) Rangers prospect Joey Gallo established a new franchise-record in a minor-league season with his 175th strikeout Thursday, according to the Dallas Morning News. 

Gallo broke the previous franchise mark set in 1975, and he did it in his 430th at-bat between Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco. He ranks fourth in the minors overall in strikeouts, though he has also hit 41 home runs while hitting .274/.395/.619 overall. 


Russell Branyan signs minor-league deal with Indians
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:28 pm ET) The Indians signed veteran infielder Russell Branyan and assigned him to Triple-A Columbus Friday, the team announced.

Branyan, 38, has not played in the majors since 2011. He was playing professionally in Mexico before signing his minor-league deal.


A.J. Pierzynski likely staying with Cardinals
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:21 pm ET) The return of Yadier Molina from a thumb injury is unlikely to force the Cardinals to part ways with his replacement, A.J. Pierzynski, reports FOXSports.com.

The Cardinals are expected to work Molina back in slowly when he makes his expected return to the lineup Friday, which should still leave time for Pierzynski to play. The fact that rosters expand in a few days should help Pierzynski's chances, since the team will be able to carry three catchers.

Pierzynski has appeared in 21 games since joining the Cardinals, hitting .265/.324/.338 in 68 at-bats. 


Tigers DFA Jose Ortega, clear 40-man spot
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:09 pm ET) The Tigers designated pitcher Jose Ortega for assignment Friday, to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the team announced.

Ortega has been pitching at Triple-A Toledo since May, after he gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings in the majors.  


Felix Doubront getting the start Saturday
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:52 pm ET)  Cubs pitcher Felix Doubront will start the first game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Cardinals, according to ESPN.com Friday.

Doubront, who is working his way back from a calf injury suffered just after his acquisition from the Red Sox, finished his rehab assignment last week at Double-A Tennessee. He allowed nine runs in 14 innings overall while on assignment, and it is not clear if the team intends to keep him in the rotation moving forward.  


Carter Capps' return from DL could come soon
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:19 pm ET) Marlins reliever Carter Capps could return to the team shortly after rosters expand Sept. 1, MLB.com reports Friday.

Capps, who has been out since late May with an elbow injury, began his minor-league rehab assignment at the team's Gulf Coast League affiliate earlier this week. He had a 3.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings prior to injuring his elbow. 


Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez likely to get first taste of the majors
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:11 pm ET) Phillies pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has thrived since making the switch to the bullpen at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports Friday is "almost a lock" to join the team when rosters expand next week.

Gonzalez has appeared in 11 games out of the bullpen at Triple-A, posting a 1.72 ERA with 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 15 2/3 innings. The 27-year-old struggled mightily at Class A Clearwater earlier in the season, before the switch to the bullpen was made, after a disappointing run in spring training.

"He wasn't sharp, he wasn't strong in spring training," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "So to see what he's doing now, see what that looks like, anxious to see that if he's one of the guys. He should be one of the guys."


Jorge De La Rosa blocked on waivers
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:43 am ET) Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa was claimed on waivers and will not be traded prior to Monday's deadline, reports CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman Friday.

It is not clear which team claimed De La Rosa, but it was apparently done solely to block a trade to a possible contender. The Rockies looked to trade De La Rosa before the non-waiver deadline in July, but he will not head into free agency, where the Rockies intend to make him a qualifying offer before trying to re-sign him.  

He has a 4.19 ERA and 13-9 record in 154 2/3 innings on the season. 


 
 
 
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